Long before Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, and David Letterman's late night TV shows, there was Ernie Kovacs. It's almost certain that the creators of these sketch comedy and host-behind-the desk shows watched Kovacs during his all too brief career. (He died in a car crash in 1962, at age 42, barely 12 years since first appeared on local TV in Philadelphia). As irony would have it, Comedy Central host Jon Stewart was born in Trenton, New Jersey - Kovacs birthplace as well - the same year that Kovacs died. And Stewart (real name: Jonathan Stuart Liebowitz) would not be the success he is if Kovacs hadn't paved the way. (I, too, was born in Trenton and remember as a young kid, when Kovacs made the move from radio in Trenton to television in Philly.)
For the last four decades Kovacs was an "underground" celebrity. He was often overlooked in the history of TV and comedy. With this DVD release - and all the press it should garner - the rest of the world, and a whole new generation of fans should become Ernie-holics. MAJOR credit for this release needs to go to two people and a company. First is Edie Adams, Kovacs wife and co-star of his show. After Ernie's death, when the major TV networks (Kovacs shows were on NBC, ABC and Dumont) were erasing the video tapes of show to re-use them, Adams bought - at great personal expense - as many as she could - thus saving them from oblivion. She created an archive, now managed by her son - from her second marriage - Josh Mills. Mills is the "keeper of the Kovacs flame" and the Producer of this set. The third party we need to thank is Shout Factory, the LA video reissue company, who is making this available for home viewing in such a deluxe package. And, they paid even more of a tribute by offering a SEVENTH "bonus DVD" with over two-hours of material including Kovacs two "Tonight" shows - not to be confused with the Johnny Carson version.
I won't go into too much detail about Kovacs because you probably found this review after reading about the set and want to know how good it is. Well. It's better than good: It's Great! (Oh did I forget to mention the gorgeous booklet - compiled by Mills - that comes with it? ) The first shows (1950), sadly, no longer exist. The set starts with Kovacs LAST show in Philly (1951). And the prints on the first disc are not as sharp as you are probably used to. But at least we can see them and the later ones (including Kovacs's game shows) look superb.
I'll also suggest that folks new to Kovacs, pop in Disc One, go to the Bonus Features, and watch the 1987 ATAS Hall of Fame Induction. This will give you a brief overview of Kovacs life. Then go back to the first show on this disc - It's Time For Ernie 3/7/1951.
There were some Kovacs VHS tapes released years ago and a few of those clips are here too (though in better quality, if that exists). But MOST of the contents on the set have not been seen in over 50 years! I'm told that there are still more shows "in the vault" so hopefully large sales will encourage Mills and Shout Factory to follow up with a sequel.
If you remember Kovacs you need to see this collection. If you are too young to remember him, you need to see this as well. This is where those TV comedy icons YOU know got their ideas!